This past week was the 37th anniversary of the Challenger explosion. I was a child when the explosion happened, but I still remember it well. The photo I’ve shared was taken at the Air Zoo Museum down near Portage MI. My parents, Ben and I all went on a trip there a few years ago, and I found myself drawn to their exhibit. As a young child, astronaut had been near the top of my career choices. I admired Christa McAuliffe because she was a teacher and an astronaut, two of my top career choices. I remember feeling great sadness the day she died, even though I’d never actually met her.
Time is such a funny thing. In some ways, it still feels like the Challenger explosion happened yesterday, and in other ways, it feels like it happened a lifetime ago. So many big events in life seem to be that way.
Exercise and a Little Sunshine
With winter in full swing, it’s been difficult to get outside to exercise in the way I like to. I’ve been finding our basset hound puppy is great exercise, especially because she loves to play tug-of-war and will play with me as I walk. We have so much fun, and it’s been a great way to get energy out for both of us, me walking the house with her pulling on a toy as I walk. It’s also a really great way to strengthen my muscles. She weighs over 50 lbs and is a very strong dog.
It’s been nice to see a little sunshine too. The clouds have been hanging on, with very little sun this winter. We’ve had a few days where the sun peeked out for a short time. It’s bitter cold outside, but beautiful at the same time.
Take Your Eyes Off The Problem
This week, one of our dogs got the tie-out she was on wrapped around a tree. Our yard is not fenced in, so we either walk the dogs on a leash or let them out on a tie-out if they want out. Our basset hound puppy is learning how not to get tangeled around trees outside, but this week, she found herself wrapped around one with the tie-out.
Around and around she went, trying to make the problem better, but it just made it worse. I tried to help her, but she still kept going the wrong way as she tried to solve the problem herself. Finally, I went inside and brought out a treat. It took her eyes off the problem for a moment. Carefully, I led her round and round the tree, keeping her eyes on the treat as we slowly got her untangled. Once she was free, she ran excitedly back to the house.
After I thought about this situation later, I realized the problem was solved when she took her eyes off it. It reminded me of our own lives. Too often, I focus on a problem. I want to get unstuck from something, so I go round and round until I find myself tangled up even worse than I was to begin with. It’s only when I take my eyes off my problems and focus on where God is leading me that I can get unstuck.
People have often told me they don’t understand how I’ve handled things as well as I have with everything going on. It’s not that I don’t have bad days, I do. It’s that I keep coming back to the One who can truly handle my problems, the One who has the solution. So even on the really tough days, when I’m hurting, or frustrated and just don’t know what to do next, I can lean on the fact that my Father in Heaven knows exactly what to do, even if I can’t see it. It’s trusting in that that is hard. Sometimes it feels like it’s easier to just keep trying on my own, keep going around and around and maybe one of these times I’ll get it right and things will go like they should. But they don’t. It’s not until I take my eyes off the problems and focus on the One who can truly guide me in the right direction that things begin to turn around. It’s easier said than done. On the really bad days, it’s hard to remember that there’s a God in charge of the situation no matter what I’m facing. But when I take my eyes off the problem, I truly am set free.
We’ve had a beautiful week here in North-west lower Michigan, finally getting some sunshine. Michigan isn’t known for its sunny days, especially in winter and this winter has been very cloudy. I’ve seen some reports saying we haven’t had a full day of sun since November, and it’s been weeks since we’ve really seen the sun at all. This week, the sun came out for several days. We enjoyed walks outside, and a beautiful stary night in January.
It felt strange to be able to walk around outside in January. We often have several feet of snow this time of year, so having bare ground and not needing snowshoes to get around feels odd. It was really nice to be able to spend so much time outside this week though, without worrying about a lot of snow gear, or getting worn out quickly in the deep snow. I don’t know what lies ahead. We will likely get a lot more snow and cold temperatures in the days ahead, and probably a lot of cloudy days too. But eventually, the sun will shine again. There is beauty even in cloudy days, and they will not last forever. The sunshine this week was just what we needed to start off the New Year! A photo dump from this week:
We originally started this blog back in 2012, transferring from another site to WordPress from another blog I’d started to share our adventures in north-west lower Michigan. For a couple of years, I posted occasionally, and then posts became even rarer as I started working on my first Master’s degree. For a brief time, I started posting again but it wasn’t much at all.
Then, in December of 2020, the accident happened. If you are just now starting to follow this blog, you can read about that here: A Christmas To Remember. It changed everything.
A catalyst is defined as “an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action (Merriam-Webster.com., 2023).
The accident was a catalyst to so many things in our lives, including writing more on this blog. At first, it started as a way for us to update people all at once. Then, slowly, it has started becoming what it was originally meant to be to begin with; a way to share our lives with others and keep track of life. A journal in a sense.
For years, Ben and I had discussed the possibility of me working remotely from home, especially as his health deteriorated. After the accident, that became more of a necessity and a possibility than it ever had before. With Grad school between 2013 and 2020, with only a year break between 2 Masters degrees, there were so many things I stopped doing and had to give up because Grad school and working full time came first.
When the accident happened, I was still trying to figure out how to get so many of those things back, like my writing time, birdwatching, playing piano and guitar, crafting, gardening, and doing so many of the other things I like to do. The accident forced us to rethink things. I’ve always been away of just how short life is, but the accident made me even more aware of it, and left me wanting to do so much more before my time on this earth is done. I was already writing a fair amount, but I wanted to write even more. I was barely going out birdwatching, taking photos, or doing crafts because we just never made the time for it.
The accident, in so many ways, became the catalyst to getting my life back. Not only in the physical sense, but getting back to what truly matters. Slowing down. Taking time to sit out in the sun and read a book, hike through a forest in the middle of winter, and jam a tune on the piano. Taking the time to put together a craft, or play with the dog, blog, or try new things I’ve been wanting to learn. It isn’t that I wasn’t doing those things at all before the accident, but I wasn’t doing them much. The accident made both my husband Ben and I aware of what we were actually taking for granted without even realizing it, and what we needed to change to get to where we wanted to be.
So, we started making those changes. I now work from home. I’m blogging this year more than I have in a long time, and I’m writing pretty close to daily. I’m reading books faster than I have in years and taking the time to enjoy the sunshine on my face, and the cold air in my lungs. Life is too short not to.
When temperatures and system pressure change, they become a catalyst to the weather. Clouds move in or get pushed out, either covering the sun, or making room for it to reappear. Just like the weather, pressure and changes in our own lives, whether negative or positive, lead to change. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. But eventually, long enough into the seasons, the sun makes it way out from behind the clouds again. Difficult days don’t last forever. And sometimes, they become the catalyst that leads us towards days better than anything we could ever imagine.
Every year, I set goals for myself. I used to do this on social media, but in recent years, the settings have changed, so I’ve switched to a blog format over the past couple of years. You can find my goals from 2020 going into 2021 here: 2020 Goals, and my goals from 2021, going into 2022 here: 2021 Goals.
Why do I set goals? Because I believe setting goals helps us to make a plan and follow it to get to where we want to be. Do I always stick with the plan 100%? No. Life gets in the way, and things happen, but I strive to make progress on my goals throughout the year as much as possible. Sometimes I’m more successful at it than other times. I often set my goals around projects. Projects are anything that takes time and energy, and in order to complete those projects in a timely manner, I need a plan. Setting goals around those projects help me to make a plan to get things done.
My goals for 2022 were as follows, along with how I did on each goal.
By December 31, 2022, I will write a book, edit it, send it to beta readers, and seek out getting it published. In many ways, this goal was too much for one year with everything else going on. I did manage to write quite a bit, (over 100,000 words) and did some editing too. A couple of years ago, 100,000 wouldn’t have felt like much, but since the accident, it’s more than I could have done a year ago, so I’ll take it.
By December 31, 2022, I will make time to enjoy a variety of my hobbies each week, including in music, reading, photography, birdwatching, arts and crafts, and writing. I continue to work on this. Next year, one of my goals is going to be around building habits in addition to a hobbies goal. I enjoyed more hobbies than I have in a long time, setup my piano once again with my music books, read more fiction books than I’ve read in years, took a lot of photos, and managed to get a little bit of arts and crafts in. I did a little bit of birdwatching, but not a lot.
By December 31, 2022, I will gain strength and become more physically fit. I did well on this goal until winter hit. For most of 2022, I was outside several days a week hiking, playing tennis, frisbee golf, or heading inside to the gym. Once winter hit, it has been harder to get out. I’m sort of keeping this goal for next year but working into habits instead of a separate goal.
By December 31, 2022, I will complete tasks around the house following weekly, monthly, and yearly checklists. We got a lot of tasks done around this house this year! There is still more I want to do, but we moved my hobby room and converted it into an office, started a new space for the hobby room, then decided to change that up as well. So next year, that will be one of our goals.
By December 31, 2022, I will create and carry out goals related to work, including teaching, blogging and photography. This was the toughest goal to write, but perhaps one of the easiest to carry out because it was so broad. I’ve blogged sporadically throughout the year but want to get more consistent at it. I started a new teaching job, teaching online and explored some new projects. I’m sure I’ll go into more detail as time goes on, but for now, I’m not talking a lot about those projects since they are just getting started.
Goals for next year (2023):
One thing I learned during 2022 by tracking my goals so closely is that I really can only do about 3-4 goals per month. As such, I will have five goals this coming year, but every month, one of those goals will not be focused on. I even made out a list for myself of what to focus on when! 😉 I’ve added a sample below, for anyone interested in trying something similar. My personal one is colored coded, but the one below is much simpler. There is one goal, building routines, that I will work on all year because it is important to keep the momentum when you are trying to build new habits.
My goals for 2023:
Isn’t this a goal every year? 😄 By December 31, 2023, I will have organized my series more and finished up some of the books in it. I am finding that having a book ready to send out to publishing is difficult when you are writing a series that constantly changes the first book. This year, I tried to make myself just write the first book and get it out, but I quickly discovered it was a really fast way to dislike and dread my own writing. I backtracked, wrote about half of one of the later books in the series, and about 1/4 of another one. It’s a rather large series, and I’ve been looking at some ideas to help me write the first part of the series without trying to force it.
By December 31,2023, I will have spotted and photographed at least 120 different birds (average of 10 new birds per month) and completed my own Michigan Big Year. I love birdwatching. One of my goals for this coming year is to spot and photograph as many different species of birds as I can.
By December 31,2023, I will build routines around the areas of music (piano/guitar), hobbies, chores and fitness. I did this last year with reading and have read more fiction books than I have in a long time. I read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear last year and found it to be very informative and helpful. I want to learn to play more piano and guitar, build in my hobbies as part of my regular routine, create a better routine for household chores, and build habits to help me maintain fitness goals year-round. Some of these will likely be goals that carry over into next year, but I want to start building the routines for them now. I will start with building one routine, and then slowly add more in.
By December 31,2023, I will blog regularly, based on a schedule I create. I’ve always enjoyed blogging, but do not keep it up as much as I would like to. I am setting a goal for myself to create a schedule for blogging, and stick with the schedule as much as I possibly can.
By December 31, 2023, I learn new skills, such as HTML programming, natural dyes, herb growing, and other skills that come up throughout the year. As a life-long learner, I enjoy learning new things but struggle to set aside the time to focus on continuing to build my skills. By making learning a priority this year, I am setting aside time to build the skills I want to and to use those skills in my hobbies and every day life.
Career Goals. This is part of the reason I’m limiting myself to 3-4 projects a month. The 3-4 projects are from the personal goals listed above, but this still leaves time for Career Goals. Part of the reason I wasn’t reaching the 5 project a month goals is because I wasn’t really tracking much for career goals, at least not in the same way I track personal goals. So I was doing a lot in my career, which takes time and energy, but not counting it with the projects I completed. This made is seem like I was doing less than I was actually doing. This year, I’m cutting back on how many personal goals I expect to meet each month (3-4) but will continue to work on career goals outside of my personal goals. It is much more realistic than trying to meet both career and personal goals while only noting the time for personal goals in my schedule.
Two great reads for building habits, creating routine and finishing projects are:
Start Finishing, by Charlie Gilkey
Atomic Habits, by James Clear
As we wrap up 2022 and head into a New Year, I look forward to seeing where life takes us next. If nothing else, life is an adventure and sometimes it feels like the twists and turns will never stop. I’ve made a plan for next year, but I can guarantee nothing will go 100% as planned out. That’s just part of living. I’ll reevaluate throughout the year, adjust the plan as needed and keep moving forward. In the end, I think that’s what really matters, that we keep going and don’t give up. I may not reach 100% of my goals, but I will know I did the best I could to get there, and changed directions when needed.
Sometimes it feels like time just flies by, and before you know it, it’s been over two months since I last posted anything. Time goes by too fast. We’ve been busy, and we’ve had a lot going on. This will be a longer than normal blog post, I suspect.
I’m not even really sure where to begin. I’ve started this blog post over and over again, but life gets in the way, and I haven’t published anything until now.
Physical/Occupational Therapy/ Medical Updates For Me (Cindy)
I’ve continued the PT and OT exercises I learned during my time in rehab. Sometimes it’s meant going to the gym to do them, other times going for a hike or trying to do everyday activities such as gardening and laundry. We’ve had a lot of medical appointments over the past couple of months too.
I’m not even sure how much I’ve mentioned it to anyone, but during the scans completed after the accident, the doctors found white spots on my brain. After waiting to get into a neurologist, and further testing, it is believed the spots were caused by a stroke many years ago, possibly even as an infant. So I’ve had more tests to confirm this, as well as to assess my risk for another stroke. I meet with the neurologist again in July and will hopefully know more then. So far, everything is looking pretty good, and we are hoping it will stay that way. But life has a way of throwing you a curve, so at the same time, we’re bracing ourselves for that possibility too.
Physically, I’m doing better and better each week. I’m able to move more, I’m not as sore as I was, and I’m gaining strength back. I still have days when I’m pretty weak on the left side, and I’ve been having a lot of nerve pain as things reconnect but am making good progress. Being on my feet for very long is painful, walking hurts if I walk for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, and my left wrist sometimes locks which is painful. I still have to be careful with all of the internal damage and nerve damage from the trauma. I may never regain full function of my left wrist, or the feeling in my left thigh, but I’ve come a long way. Most people would never know I was in a serious auto accident.
Ben’s Health Update:
Ben’s peripheral neuropathy continues to get worse. It is spreading into his hands and fingers, making it harder for him to grip things and open jars. The nerve pain, especially in his feet and legs, gets pretty intense at times. Basically, the nerves in his limbs are dying, but are going haywire in the meantime. So he doesn’t always feel when he steps on something, or grabs something sharp, but other times he gets super sharp nerve pain when he’s not doing anything at all.
We also recently found out he has a cataract. This is unusual for someone his age, and the doctors are not sure why he’s developed one, but his vision is pretty bad right now. He will be having surgery next month to repair it. It may be yet another symptom of whatever is going on with his body. We continue to pray for answers and seek out doctors who can help. We’ve tried a lot of things over the years, including natural remedies and elimination diets, but nothing has helped so far. In fact, some of the things have made it worse. We trust in all of this though that God has a plan beyond what we can understand.
Bring on Summer!
Summer is such a busy time of year for us. With a little help, I was able to get a garden in this year using buckets for containers and a couple of patches on the ground. I can’t wait to see what comes in for harvest this year!
I’ve started driving a little more again. I was driving again last summer, but after surgery in November, wasn’t able to for a while. As the warmer weather arrived and my body had time to recover more from the November surgery and infection in February, I was able to start driving again. It’s felt really good to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve been trying to stop between appointments to lakes and nature places, and on the rare day off, we intentionally schedule time to go too.
A few photos from the outdoor places and our garden:
Our puppy Annie is getting so big! She loves the outdoors and makes us laugh every day. We also had three baby rabbits born this summer, and introduced them to her. She LOVES the rabbits just as much as our older two dogs. A few photos of her adventures with us:
Songs on Repeat:
One Year Ago-KJ52
The Blessing- Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes
Goodness of God-Bethel Music
I’m Sorry- TobyMac
Give Me Your Eyes- Brandon Heath
Scripture and Quotes
Every Season Serves a Purpose
Life is full of ups and downs. For us, the past few years especially have been full of challenges and difficult times. Yet as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there is joy even in the midst of the trials. We don’t know where this road is headed next. We don’t know where we’ll be a year from now, or if we’ll have any more answers than we do now.
What we do know is that there is a God in Heaven who has been with us every step of the way, and continues to be even now. What we do know is that He’s given us each other, and even when the road seems long and difficult, there is a plan and purpose beyond what we can comprehend. Every season serves a purpose.
This season we are in may seem long and sometimes never ending, but in the end, it is only a season. It will pass, like all the others before it. To quote Psalm 27:13:
“I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Psalm 27:13, NRSV
Times may be tough, the season may be rough, but God is still good, and there is a plan and a purpose even for a season such as this.
It’s been over a month since I posted last. I feel like that’s kind of become routine. I’m hoping to build a better routine for blogging, but it seems like every time I start to build one, something else happens and it throws everything off.
Since I blogged last, I’ve been trying to get to the gym for physical therapy exercises and have done them at home quite a bit too. We ended up with a couple of ice storms this past month, both on days I had scheduled time open to go to the gym, so we’ve gone a little less than I would like to, but the weather should be getting warmer sooner. At home, we have a trampoline, balance board, balance ball, dumbbell weights, an exercise ball, mat, stretch bands, and a few other things so it’s better than nothing, but I prefer the gym. What we have still allows me to get in some physical therapy though. As the snow clears, I’ve been able to get out for walks more too. It’s felt so good to get out!
I still have some soreness from the November surgery, but it is slowly getting better. The infection I had in February seems to have healed up nicely, and we are watching closely in case anything tries to come back anytime soon.
As far as occupational therapy, I keep doing things around the house as much as I can to work my wrists and hands. Annie, our new puppy, helps a lot with that too. She loves to play tug of war and gets my wrist moving in a lot of different ways. We started seeing a new chiropractor as well, someone closer to where we live. She specializes in sports medicine and does physical therapy in addition to chiropractic. I’m noticing more movement in my wrist and less pain in the hip, so hopefully we will continue to see improvement.
Annie is getting so big! We are enjoying every moment with her. She LOVES being outside with me, and loves to play with Ben, myself, and our other two dogs. Her favorite toys are pull-ropes and stuffed animals. So far, she hasn’t been very destructive with toys though. She just plays with them and moves on to the next one. We are very thankful to have her in our lives! We’ve been tracking her growth week to week, and I’ve included some photos.
Songs on Repeat
KJ-52- One Year Ago
Grits-My Life Be Like
Start Over- Flame featuring NF
Scripture and Quotes:
Aslan Is On The Move
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more. When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia has been one of my favorite series since I was a child. I shared a couple of quotes above, and I think about them often, especially this time of year.
Living in the snowbelt of Northern Lower Michigan, it’s not uncommon for us to have snow until at least May, or even into June. Some of the “old timers” who have lived in the area a long time, will tell you they’ve seen snow pretty much every month of the year. So by the time we get to this part of the year, we are all ready for spring to come, yet it seems so far off.
I think often of Narnia. If you’ve never read the series, there is a witch who makes it always winter but never Christmas, and spring never comes. When the lion in the story, Aslan, begins to move, winter can no longer take its hold. It has to leave. The lion is more powerful than the witch.
For Ben and I, the last few years especially have sometimes felt like an endless winter. Sometimes it seems like difficult things keep happening. It’s like a cold, frozen, dark season that goes on forever and ever.
And yet, we know the Lion moves. In our Christian faith, the Lion in The Chronicles of Narnia is often viewed as being an allegory for Jesus. As Romans 8:28 so beautifully states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Times may be tough, but it will not last forever. Spring will come. Better times will come. Even with all the difficulties we face, we know there is a reason and a purpose, and that better things lay ahead.
Today, looking out the window, we can see the sunshine. Tomorrow, it is supposed to snow. But we know it won’t last forever. Aslan is on the move! Winter cannot keep its hold on us, and eventually, we will get through the tough times of winter and move into a new season. Until then, we have each other, and our faith grows stronger in the trials. And soon, perhaps very soon, spring will finally arrive.
Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and other updates….
It’s been a busy couple of weeks. As I’ve slowly recovered from surgery in November and getting sick in January, I’ve started doing physical therapy exercises more consistently. Ben and I also signed up for a Gym membership. I’m hoping to regain the strength I lost on my left side after surgery in November. I also have a great workout buddy!
I’ve also continued to do everyday things around the house, such as laundry and dishes. Thanks to the help of one of our nephews and one of our nieces, I’ve even been able to get some cleaning and organizing done. I’m really trying to get back to a regular chair, instead of a recliner most of the time. I was getting there in November, but the last surgery took a lot out of me.
Our niece and nephew also went out snowshoeing with me. I knew it wasn’t safe to go alone, so they went with me. My hip was hurting a lot by the time we finished, and it took us over an hour and a half to go less than a mile. We used hand warmers to keep my hip and wrist from being to cold. My pain increases a lot when they get cold. We had to take breaks a lot, but it felt really good to get out.
As I write this, I’m actually in the emergency room. Last night, I developed a fever and wasn’t feeling well. I figured I was catching something. This morning, I woke up to a red hip and thigh. The skin is hot to the touch and very painful and itchy.
After a lot of tests, they believe I have an infection. As soon as they have a bed open, I’m getting transferred to Traverse City with more tests to come tomorrow. They plan to do a hip aspiration to find out more about the infection and go from there. Sometimes it seems this journey doesn’t end.
Scripture and quotes:
Songs on Repeat
Goodness Of God, by Bethel Music
Believer, by Imagine Dragons
Help is On The Way, by TobyMac
It’s Not Always About Us
If there is anything I’ve learned along this journey, it’s that it’s not always about us. Things that happen to us, difficult things we go through, problems we face. They aren’t just about us
Sometimes what happens to us are really opportunities to make someone else’s life better. Maybe through a smile at a nurse whose had a rough day, or a prayer for the person in another room who is obviously suffering. There is a bigger plan than just us and what happens to us. We never know the impact we have on someone else.
Going through difficult things can actually have a positive influence on someone else. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. We never know whose life is going to be better because of our hard times, because of how we respond and how we react to challenges. Difficult times are a part of life, but they don’t have to break us. Instead, we can use them to hopefully inspire others and make someone else’s life at least a little better.
Life isn’t about us. It’s about so much more. When we look for opportunities to help others and make their day just a little brighter, no matter how bad our day is, we can give others hope and inspiration.
If you’re facing tough times, it may not be about you. It may be about the opportunity to inspire and bless people you encounter on your journey. Look for those opportunities.
January has been a very off month. I was planning to start back up with physical therapy exercises, and even had an appointment scheduled to tour a gym, but then got sick. Ben was sick over Christmas and New Year’s, and then I came down with whatever he had near the beginning of January. So, the gym tour had to be postponed. I love the hospital gym I went to before surgery, after outpatient physical therapy, but scheduling with their classes and everything else we had going on was becoming difficult. Instead, Ben and I decided to do a gym membership so we could go together and have a more flexible schedule. Between a long recovery from surgery, and then getting sick, I’ve lost a fair amount of strength. I think my body is just run down.
A few days after I got sick, Ben became ill again. It’s been a long month with both of us slowly recovering. I am hoping to schedule a gym tour soon and get a membership so I can get back at independent PT and strengthening my left side. In the meantime, I’ve been doing the physical therapy exercises at home that I learned during my time in in-home and outpatient physical therapy.
Occupational therapy continues to be mostly everyday tasks. With Ben being sick, I’ve been doing more of the cooking. I’ve never been much of a cook, but I’m learning to make a few things that are pretty good. One of our dogs used to sit and whine whenever I would attempt to cook because it never turned out well, but he’s starting to accept that I can cook a little. Sometimes I think he’s even looking forward to my cooking. 🙂 A few of the things I’ve made… Taco salad, fried chicken breast, Tator tot casserole.
I am noticing a big difference outside this year. The pain in my left wrist especially, which has two metal plates, gets pretty intense. The colder the weather is, the worst the pain. My hip and ankle sometimes get annoyed with the cold too, but are easier to protect than my wrist, especially if I want to do anything with my hands outside. I am hoping handwarmers will help with this some at least.
Living in the snowbelt of northwest lower Michigan, we tend to get a fair amount of snow. This year, we’ve had less than normal but got hit pretty hard over the last few days. I’ve been trying to take short walks around our yard. Walking in the snow isn’t easy for me, but I’m sure it will get easier with time. Like I said, I lost quite a bit of strength after the last surgery and am hoping to get it back. I do have snowshoes and want to try snowshoeing again soon, but it’s been so cold, and my body just doesn’t tolerate the cold temperatures well anymore.
Both of our dogs love the snow, especially our Catahoula. It can be pretty much a blizzard and he wants to go outside at least for a little bit. I’ve shared a photo of him enjoying some of the recent snow we had.
Songs on Repeat
Love Feels Like- TobyMac, Michael Tait, Kevin Max
Hurt -Johnny Cash
Ring of Fire- Johnny Cash
Keep Your Head Up- Andy Grammer
Quotes and Scripture From This Month:
When Life Gives You Lemons
This past year hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. Between the car accident, deaths in the family, sickness, appliances breaking, and just life in general, things have been hard at times. The saying “When life gives you lemon, make lemonade” comes to mind in all of this. It’s a way of finding the positive, even in the really difficult times. A way of sweetening something that should be sour.
This isn’t always easy. But finding the sweet in the sour makes things a little more bearable at least. We’ve had a lot of lemons this past year. Yet there continue to be sweet moments too. Like the beautiful sunsets against the snow, or the chickadees coming to our birdfeeders to eat, or the extra time we’ve had to rest and recuperate because we both ended up sick.
For both Ben and I, our faith helps a lot with this. Knowing that even in the worst of times, God has a plan and a purpose for it all. Even before the accident, I would often try to find things I was grateful for. It helps put things into perspective and makes the difficult seem just a little less so. Life is full of lemons. But we don’t have to focus on that. We can choose instead to focus on the sweetness, and make lemonade.
Every year, I like to make and set goals for myself. You can read about the goals from 2021 and 2022 here: https://talesfromnorthcountry.com/2021/12/31/new-years-resolutions-2022/ Over the past several years, I have had people ask me about my system for setting and reaching goals. It’s fairly extensive and I realize it may not work for everyone, but it works for me.
One of the first things I do is to think about where I want to be a year from now, five years from now, and ten years from now. This can be career related, hobby related, location related, fitness related or anything else I want to change in my life. I like to work backwards. So I start with where I want to be in five or ten years and go backwards from there.
Also, I’ve been learning I need to limit goals. Charlie Gilkey (I’ll link to his book later) does a great job of talking about this in his book Start Finishing. He suggests picking no more than 3-5 goals (or projects as he calls them) at a time. So I limit myself every year to 3-5 projects, all based on where I want to be in 5 or 10 years but narrowed down so they are doable in a year.
I’m also learning to set SMART goals. Gilkey talks about this a lot. I made up my own pintables to help me to do so, but there are many out there. I will link to them below if anyone wants to print off the ones I made and use them. I shared a picture below that breaks down how I set the goals, thinking about each component (are they specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely?) Gilkey’s planner adds to this a lot. My sheets are just extras because I wanted more space to actually write out each goal and reflect on it.
One, Five and Ten Year Plans
It’s hard to plan too far ahead because life gets in the way. I start with an idea of where I want to be, but the real planning is for the next year. My 5- and 10-year goals play a role in where I want to be a year from now, but I don’t do a lot with them. For example, I want to be a published author. I want to write books. The reality is that writing books takes time, and it may take me closer to 5 or even 10 years to reach that goal. I could write out an entire five-year plan to write several books in the next few years and try to get them published, but life gets in the way, and I would likely never reach that goal.
So instead, I focus on the upcoming year. I know that long term, I want to publish several books. That’s a great goal, but too much can change between now and year 5. So instead, I make a plan for the coming year. What can I do this year? I can write a book, edit it, and begin to look for beta readers. I may even be able to get it sent out to publishers. So that becomes a goal for the coming year, knowing that in five years I want to have more than one book published, but I’m going to focus on one year at a time. I believe it is important to think about the future but planning too far in advance can lead to a lot of frustration if things don’t pan out.
One Year Goal Month by Month
Once I have an idea of where I want to go long term, I make a plan for the year on how I’m going to get there. I lay out quarterly and monthly plans. I use a system through Productive Flourishing Momentum Planners. The owner also wrote a book called ‘Start Finishing.‘ I highly recommend the book if you really want to start finishing projects you start. Productive Flourishing Planners have pages to layout the year and months. You can get a month at a time free on their site, but I recommend purchasing the planner. You can choose a digital PDF version or a printed copy, and I believe they are working on an app as well which should be available next year. I don’t get anything for advertising their products, but their planners have helped me so much, I like to tell others about them whenever I can.
Using their planners, I layout each quarter and each month. I set goals for each quarter, then use those goals to set goals for the month. Going back to my writing goal, I would break that goal down. So instead of “This year, I will write a book,” the goal becomes “In this quarter, I will write 80,000 words in my story.” Then, In January, I will write 50,000 words.” In February, I might write “In February, I will write 30,000 more words.” In March, the goal might be “I will catchup any missed words and begin the editing process.”
Over the course of the year, I will break down what I need to do to reach the initial goal of publishing a book. This includes editing, beta readers, and sending it to a publisher. I lay it out in the planners and set deadlines for myself of when each thing needs to be done. Everything from the quarterly and month goals then gets transferred week by week to the weekly planners, with the goals broken down a little more.
Weekly and Daily
Every week, I look at my schedule for the week and my goals for that month. I set goals for that week, based on the overall goal for that month. For example, if my goal in January is to write 50,000 words, I divide that by the number of weeks in January (about 4) and make a goal for the week based on that. I would aim to write about 12,500 words that week. I would then divide this up by the number of words to write per day (1785) and by the end of the month, I should have at least 50,000 words.
Now, when I look at my weekly schedule, let’s say I notice Friday is a really busy day that week. As I move from writing my weekly schedule to my daily schedule, I will keep this in mind and set a lower goal for that day. Instead of setting my goal to write 1785 words that day, I’ll add extra words to another day and write more to make up the difference. In that way, I can still reach my goal, but I’ve got a better cushion when life gets in the way.
At the end of the day, week, month, quarter, and year, I try to take time to reflect on where I’m at with my goals. This doesn’t happen every day, or even every week. Life gets in the way. But it’s still important to keep track of where I’m at and consider where I want to go from there.
I also use visual trackers, such as goal ladders and habit tracker sheets, to help me stay on task and keep track of where I’m at with a goal. This also helps me see if I need to adjust my goal. For example, maybe in January, I plan to write 50,000 words, but then I get sick. (Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, but it has in the past.) My visual tracker would either be blank because I was too sick to write on it, or I would have just scribbled “sick” across those days. Now, as I write my goals for the rest of the month each week, or when I get to February’s goal, I may need to adjust. Maybe I’m not going to reach 50,000 words in January, but I can do more in February and push some into March. Or, maybe the goal needs to change all together because of what happened that month.
This isn’t to be an excuse for never reaching my goals. Rather it’s a cushion for times when life does happen; the tire is flat on my car when I am trying to get to the gym; the power goes out when I’ve committed to reading another chapter and I can’t find a flashlight; I get super sick right in the middle of trying to finish 50,000 words in a month. All of these are real life situations that happen. They can stop me for a day, or even a couple of weeks, but the important thing is to not let the setbacks stop me all together. I make adjustments to my goals as needed, and move forward, knowing that at the end of the year, I can look back and say I tried my hardest and did my best despite any obstacles that came my way.
Do I reach every goal 100% of the time? Nope. And that’s ok. I reconfigure and keep going. Change your plan if needed, even change your dreams if you can tell they are shifting, but don’t give up reaching for your goals.
Do you have to do every part of what I do? Nope. That’s the beauty of a plan. It’s your own. You can use what works for you, and even combine this system with another. It’s about finding what works best for you to help you reach the goals you want to accomplish.
The important thing is to find what works and stick with it. Don’t give up just because it gets hard, because it will get hard! I think I could do an entire blogpost just on chasing dreams and not giving up. But just know that once you start trying to set goals and chase your dreams, it will be hard, but it will be worth it in the end. There’s a difference between changing your dreams because they’ve changed and grown with you, and giving up on your dreams. Make a plan, be ready to adjust that plan, but never give up on reaching the final goal unless you know for certain that final goal needs to change.
Sometimes I can be wordy. So here is a quick summary of the above:
Amazing Resources I’ve found over the last few years:
(Most cost, but are so worth it!)
Links to Gilkey’s Planners and his book…. Because I can’t recommend them enough!!!!
Links to other helpful planning sheets I’ve found:
(Again, I don’t get paid to share any of these, I just like to share great products when I find them!)
What a year this has been! I’ve spent pretty much this entire year recovering from the auto accident. Ben’s neuropathy continues to get worse, with no known cause. We’ve had our share of ups and downs this year, with it sometimes seeming like the downs outweigh the ups.
Sometimes finding the good with all the bad can be difficult. As we look back on 2021, we are thankful that we are both still here. We are both alive. Most of the animals are still alive. We lost our rabbit Samwise while I was in the hospital but gained some new baby bunnies over the summer. We have a house to live in, and good food to eat. We can read almost anything we want to read at the click of a button, and worship as we choose. As I write this, I’m typing it from a decent computer that runs pretty well, and I have the ability to back up things as needed. We have cold, fresh water to drink whenever we want it, indoor plumbing and electricity. It’s been a tough few years, but there is still so much to be thankful for.
We look to 2022, with hope and anticipation of what is yet to come. And with that, we plan for the year ahead, knowing any plan made isn’t likely to stick 100%, but striving to reach at least some goals.
Review of Last Year’s Goals
Every year, I (Cindy) set goals for myself. Here are my goals last year, and how I did on completing them:
1. Regain my independence: I’ve regained much of my independence. I lost some of it after the latest surgery but am in the process of gaining it back.
2. Regain my strength: I’ve regained much of my strength, then lost some of it after the latest surgery. I will soon be beginning the process again to get my strength back.
3. Have any further surgeries that I need to have and come back from that: I had the latest surgery in November, and am in the process of getting stronger from it.
4. Finish my book series, Or at least get it organized enough that I can have a deadline better for finishing it: I did not complete this goal. Looking back, it was pretty unrealistic, all things considered. I did get a fair amount of writing done, despite having two broken wrists, and I started to organize things a little more. I also started a different series, with the goal of completing the first book in that within the next year, and coming back to my longer series at another time.
5. Start a book about my experiences: I started a book about my experiences. I’ve gotten about 11,000 words. It’s a work in progress.
6. Write at least 10,000 more words in my series before the end of January using Voice to text.:I was not able to meet this goal. My hip re-dislocated during rehab, and I ended up having four more surgeries by the end of January.
7. Blog more regularly: I have blogged more regularly on www.talesfromnorthcountry.com, but not as much on www.myamuseinglife.com. I hope to do more of both in the coming year. Just in case anyone is wondering, My Amuseing Life is not a spelling mistake, it is done this way on purpose, as a play on words. A-muse-ing, with muse being one of the keywords of the blog. It is my blog for creative writing, everything from fiction, poetry, writing prompts, and more.
Goals for Next Year:
Over the past few years, I’ve started using a system from Charlie Gilkey, author of Start Finishing. He also has a business, Productive Flourishing, that puts out amazing planners. I read a lot of self-help books, but his system is one of the best I’ve found. One of the things he recommends is only doing 3 to 5 projects at one time. So with that, I’m trying to limit my goals for the coming year to five.
Goals for 2022:
By December 31, 2022, I will write a book, edit it, send it to beta readers, and seek out getting it published. This goal might be too much for one year with everything we’ve had going on, but I do have quite a bit written already, and I really want to start pursuing publishing more. So I am hoping to meet this goal, or at least most of it.
By December 31, 2022, I will make time to enjoy a variety of my hobbies each week, including in music, reading, photography, birdwatching, arts and crafts, and writing. My hobbies are important to me, but I often don’t make time to do them. I read a book called Atomic Habits, by James Clear this year, and have been working on adding my hobbies into routines I already do.
By December 31, 2022, I will gain strength and become more physically fit. This one is extremely important after the accident. I really need to complete workouts and physical therapy exercises to regain strength. I am hoping in the process, I will become more physically fit, but my main focus for this year is on regaining strength and building my endurance.
By December 31, 2022, I will complete tasks around the house following weekly, monthly, and yearly checklists. I’ve actually done this one for several years now, but with limiting myself on goals and trying to do well with what I am doing, this really needs to be one of the projects I do. It takes time to complete chores and other tasks around the house, so I need to make it part of what I’m doing. Otherwise, I try for too many projects and don’t complete half of them, and then feel discouraged.
By December 31, 2022, I will create and carry out goals related to work, including teaching, blogging and photography. This was a really tricky one to write. Normally, I would narrow it down more. I had hoped to return to teaching in January, but recovery from the latest surgery is taking longer than expected. I try to treat my blogging and photography like jobs, as I do sometimes get income from them, and I want to do better in both areas too. When I am able to return to teaching, I will create goals for myself based on the current needs. In the meantime, Occupational Therapy encouraged me to blog as much as I can, as it helps build my endurance for typing. I was also encouraged to do more with my photography, as using my hands more can help build endurance with my wrists as well. So it becomes like a second job and third job in a sense. It’s really hard to write goals for these areas with things up in the air, so this area will become a series of mini goals throughout the year. I may also have to change some of my other goals a little bit, or may not meet them 100%, but this is just an unusual year with everything that’s happened.
Physical and Occupational Therapy/ Surgery Recovery
The recovery from the surgery I had in November continues to be longer than expected. I have been slowly building my stamina back up, and am able to do a little more most days. I still have days when I’m pretty sore, but have found if I rest for a day or two, the soreness mostly goes away and then I am less sore and able to do more afterwards.
Physical therapy has pretty much been put on hold until I recover more. I have been trying to do some simple PT exercises that my therapists taught me, such as lifting my legs as high as I can and rolling my ankles, but for the most part, I am not able to do a lot yet. I am getting closer though, and hope to return to PT after the New Year. For Occupational Therapy, most of what I do involves common, everyday things around the house such as pulling out laundry from the washer to the dryer, or folding it to put the laundry away. Sometimes I will use weights or a hammer with my wrists to help stretch the muscles out when they get tight.
My writing was slowed a little bit the past week, with the power outage. I’m hoping to catch back up in the next couple of days. I am aiming to write at least 50,000 words like I did for NaNoWriMo in November. So far, I’ve managed to write about 34,000 words this month.
I am also hoping to start posting a little more on www.myamuseinglife.com. It has been hard to get back into a routine now that I am able to type more, but I would really like to get my writing blog back up more.
Books On My Shelf
Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, by Dr. Caroline Leaf
Feeding the Soul, by Tabitha Brown
Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
Please note: I recommend books I am enjoying, but may still be reading some of them. It is always possible I may miss something inappropriate or may not have read a section yet that is inappropriate. Also, things I don’t have a problem with, others may find offensive and vice versa. While I am enjoying and recommend these books, please use your own discretion when picking out books to read.
Scripture and Quotes:
Tis The Season
We are hoping to get a family photo at some point, but I thought I would share photos of our dogs for now, with their Christmas Bandanas. Christmas has been my favorite holiday pretty much my entire life. I like to go all out, with decorations both inside and outside the house as early in the season as we can get them up, and Christmas music playing, as well as special treats throughout the month of December. Last year, it was a very different celebration which I wrote about here…https://talesfromnorthcountry.com/2021/01/01/a-christmas-to-remember/.
This year is still not going to be a “normal” Christmas for us. Between me still healing from surgery, a power outage, and Ben’s health, the entire season feels off. It’s not our normal. But it is a new normal. We’ve been having a lot of conversations about starting some new traditions and finding a new normal in all of this.
Ultimately, no matter what we end up doing, what matters most is the reason we even celebrate Christmas to begin with. Now I realize there are many different beliefs out there, and not everyone agrees on Christmas. To me, Christmas is the time of year we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know this likely isn’t His actual birthday, and I am also aware that much of Christmas as we know actually came from pagans.
But I choose to celebrate because I want to honor the One who came to save the world. I need to be reminded every year, not only of the fact that He came, but how He came. Every year, we put up a tree and I reminded that my Savior gave His life on a tree for us. We add tinsel, and I am reminded of how Jesus is the One true King. We put up the lights, and I am reminded that He is the light of the world. We add ornaments, and I am reminded of all the years He’s given me on this earth so far. So much of this season reminds me of my faith. No matter what happens, no matter what traditions we miss out on, or how difficult things are, the one thing that remains constant is the Reason for the Season.
Last Christmas was a Christmas to Remember. This Christmas is as well, in different ways. In many ways, every Christmas is special, unique. Yet some stand out more than others, and the past couple of years are an example of this. Tis the season for lights, tinsel, gifts, time with family, decorations, and so many other things. Yet it is also the season of hope. Of a belief in a better tomorrow, and a time to celebrate a Babe born so long ago who came to save the world.
I know for non-believers, it doesn’t always make sense. There is so much about the Christian faith that relies on belief, not seeing. To quote from The Santa Claus movie “Seeing isn’t believing; Believing is seeing.” Sometimes, I think more often than not, we aren’t going to see the entire path in front of us. We just have to believe that it’s there.
This season may be different for us than many others in the past, but we choose to celebrate no matter what circumstances we find ourselves because it isn’t just about tinsel, and lights, good food, time with family and all the other little things we do. It’s about so much more. It’s about hope, faith, and love. It’s about a love so great that a baby would be born, and grow up to suffer and die for us. Our circumstances cannot change that. Tis the season for joy, for reflection and peace. Because in this season, we got the greatest gift we could have possibly dreamed of, and nothing on this earth can ever change that.